Song of the Day: Bert Jansch “Jack Orion”
English folk musician, Bert Jansch is a musician whose influence exceeds his reputation. Coming to semi-prominence in the 1960s, both as a solo act and with the English folk group, The Pentangle, Jansch with his beautiful finger-style guitar playing and rough voice, was part of the wave of English musicians that delved into England’s musical past. His song-selection, writing and guitar playing are all huge influences on the more acoustic/ folky side of, for example, Led Zeppelin, with both Robert Plant and Jimmy Paige citing Jansch by name. Indeed, Zeppelin adapted much of Led Zeppelin III from a lot of what Jansch was doing musically at the time. Bert Jansch has also been hugely influential to more contemporary musicians, including Devendra Banhart and Sufjan Stevens.
“Jack Orion” is an incredible, epic traditional story song. A version of the story told in the song is cited in Geoffrey Chaucer‘s The House of Fame. Like many traditional fables from antiquity, it is a rather dark and tragic tale. The story is summarized by Wikipedia as follows:
Glasgerion is a king’s son and a harper. He harps before another king, whose daughter arranges a tryst with him. He tells his servant to ensure that he wakes in time to make the tryst. The servant goes in his place and rapes the princess. She learns the truth and kills herself, sometimes because she can not offer herself as Glasgerion’s bride. Glasgerion kills his servant and either kills himself as well or goes mad.
Jansch, with his haunting, minor key guitar arrangement, teases out the intrinsic melancholy of the song. Enjoy.